Local health unit to roll out clinics for booster shots beginning Nov. 15

Region's top doc expects they will be able to handle the demand

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit will have community clinics available beginning on Nov. 15 to offer a third dose COVID-19 vaccine.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner said at a media briefing on Wednesday that eligible people will be able to book those appointments through the COVID-19 vaccination portal when the provincial system comes online at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 6, as well as for the clinic run by Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre at 29 Sperling Drive in Barrie. In fact, booster shots at that clinic will begin on Sunday.

At a news conference prior to Gardner’s, the province said eligible individuals will also be able to book directly through public health units that use their own booking systems, through Indigenous-led vaccination clinics, select pharmacies, and primary care settings.

Dr. Charles Gardner, Simcoe Muskoka Medical Officer of Health (FILE PHOTO)

Gardner expects they will be able to handle the demand as hospitals have committed to providing their workers with immunization, as have a number of family health teams. The health unit is working with First Nations communities so they will be able to offer community clinics starting next week.

Based on the recommendation of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and in alignment with the National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s (NACI) recent recommendation, the province will begin offering booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to the following vulnerable populations if at least six months have passed since their last dose:

  • Individuals aged 70 and over (born in 1951 or earlier);
  • Health care workers and designated essential caregivers in congregate settings (including long-term care home and retirement home staff and designated caregivers);
  • Individuals who received a complete series of a viral vector vaccine (two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine or one dose of the Janssen vaccine); and
  • First Nation, Inuit and Métis adults and their non-Indigenous household members.

Gardner said there will be at least one community immunization clinic for each of the six sub-regions in Simcoe-Muskoka beginning on Nov. 15. The health unit is working with municipalities and stakeholders to select locations, keeping in mind that arenas are no longer available.

“We have been advised that we should be prepared for other segments of the population, and maybe the entire population later into the new year,” he said. “Therefore, we need to look at the capacity to be able to do that.”

The intention of the clinics goes beyond just offering booster shots. Gardner said they want to be prepared for an announcement from Health Canada and from the province about the immunization of children 5 to 11 years of age.

Provincial officials expect Health Canada could give the green light to the shot for kids by the end of November.

Gardner said people who have not received their first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should also take advantage of these clinics.

“We want to very much continue with our progress on the last mile to get above 90 per cent coverage in the eligible population for first and second doses.”